HB Tansu #2-Progress 6

hbt2-7Well all the fitting of the front to rear bearers is now completed.  They have all been planed to mate flush top and bottom with the front and rear bearers.  This little detail is important when it comes time to fit the drawers.  Any deviation between the bearers will cause all manner of difficulty in getting the drawers fitted and running smoothly.  The standard bearers all have grooves for receiving the dust panels.  The bearers that are located at the divider are a special case.  They need to be wider and also require a groove for receiving the divider panel.  I still need to draw up these details and will post them as soon as I can manage.

hbt2-12The handle rails are now ready for the installation of the handles.  I had to add a deep counterbore to the interior.  The handle rail on the right side of the tansu also will serve as the drawer guide for one of the small drawers.  This means that the interior securing knot of the handle must sit at least flush to the face of the handle rail.  I also realized that I will need to install the handles before I glue-up the carcass.  At least on the right side for sure.  The drawer compartment is pretty small and there is no way I will be able to get my big meaty pawls in there to tie the securing knot after assembly.  Luckily the tarred nylon twine that I use to make the handles will not be affected by any finish that I choose to use.  That’s right, I still haven’t made a firm decision on what finish to use.  Stop pressuring me about it. ;)

I had a few bits of birch ply and was able to fit the divider panel and a couple of the small dust panels.  With that done I’m at a standstill until Friday.  Here is where my rant about Woodcraft begins.


Not showing anything. Just I thought is was a cool shot.

Woodcraft is headquartered in my hometown and I have tried to support them when possible.  But they are making it difficult.  Over the years they have dropped most the hand tool line and have added more and more power tools.  OK, I can see why.  During the 1980’s, the Norm years, everybody wanted a table saw, radial arm saw, jointer ect.  Business decisions have to be made.  I can’t help but think they would be dominating now if they had stuck with their hand tool focus.  Then, just when it looked like they were getting back to hand tools, they parted ways with Lie-Nielsen and introduced the Chinese made Woodriver line of tools.  I have one of these planes.  It’s a good tool but if I buy again, it will be Lie-Nielsen.  Then they acquired one of my favorite stores, Japan Woodworker.  I’m not sure what they are doing, but they have managed to make a mess of the Japan Woodworker website.  They started with a well organized site and turned it into an unnavigable mess.  It is almost impossible to find anything now.  None of the Japanese tools are organized in a logical manner any longer.  They also changed all of the metric descriptions to imperial.  Anyone who uses Japanese tools knows that they are metric and search for tools based on the metric sizes.  I figure this will eventually cause them all sorts of issues, especially with chisels.  They are selling the chisels with listed imperial sizes.  If someone buys these thinking they are getting a 1/4″ chisel, for example, and receive a 6mm chisel, tempers will eventually flare.  Now I’m suffering from their latest blunder.  I need (5) pieces of birch ply.  I could have ordered online and had it delivered in a couple of days.  I’m 10 miles from the warehouse.  I didn’t because I wanted to make sure that I would have it for this weekend.  So Thursday, on my lunch hour, I made a trip over to the retail store to order the (5) pieces, they never have more than (2) sheets in the store.  The gentleman who waited on me was very pleasant and ensured me that I would be getting a call that I could pick it up the next day, Friday.  The store is only 4 miles from the warehouse.  So Friday came and went with no call from Woodcraft.  Saturday morning I called them.  The voice on the other end of the line says “no, the order did not arrive yesterday.”  Fine, when can I expect to pick up my order?  The voice says, “next Friday.”


Two days if ordered online and eight days if I order direct from the retail store that is 4 miles from the warehouse.

WOODCRAFT you have got to do BETTER if you want any more of my money!

So this week I’ll catch up on drawings and maybe make the handles and possibly a few knobs.  Plus find a new source for birch plywood.  Hida Tool will be getting my Japanese tool business for the foreseeable future,

Greg Merritt


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HB Tansu #2-Progress 5

hbt2-6I’ve just about fully recovered from my rough day in the shop on Saturday.  Over the past few evenings I’ve been able to cut, fit and groove the side bearers and the handle rails.  This completes the outer carcass framing and finally has this tansu to a stage where it’s starting to look like something.

I utilize compression fit joinery in these projects.  Essentially, this means that the end grain portions of the joints are very tight.  The long grain portions are fitted snug as per usual.  For the cherry, I cut the mortises 1mm shorter than I cut the tenons, .5mm on each end.  In the pine tansu I went 2mm shorter, but cherry doesn’t compress as much as pine.  COMPRESSION_JOINTOne of the tricks for fitting this type of joinery is to pre compress the tenon by tapping with a hammer.  This makes testing the fit easier.  The tenon will swell slightly when the glue is added and the tenon absorbs water from the glue.  This technique works great and results in tight fitting joints.  I picked this little tidbit up from Toshio Odate’s book.

The next stage is to size, fit and groove all of the internal front to rear bearers.  Nothing difficult, just repetitive.  All of the panels need to be fitted as well.  That is if I had any birch ply.  One of the lingering effects of my terrible Saturday was that I completely forgot to place an order for birch plywood.  I may run up to Woodcraft tomorrow after work and have the store order what I need.  Which seems a little silly since the shipping warehouse is about three miles from the store.  In the good old days I could just go directly to the warehouse and get anything I needed.  Sadly, those days are long gone.  So it will take two trips, one to place the order and one to pick it up.

So progress on HB Tabsu #2 is marching forward, just a little slower than I would like.  Maybe I can turn the tide once the carcass is glued up.

Greg Merritt

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Tied to the Whipping Post

To quote The Allman Brothers Band, “sometimes I feel like I’m tied to the whipping post”. I look forward to Saturdays.  Especially when I can spend the whole day in the shop.  Today was supposed to be one of those glorious days.  But it didn’t quite work out that way.

I started the day by doing some light cleanup on the rear frame assembly that was glued-up a couple of days ago.  I trimmed and flush planed the wedged tenons.  Then flushed the post faces to the rail faces.  They were pretty close to start with but offset just enough to feel with my finger.  I do this now because it’s much easier working on just the frame as opposed to the assembled carcass.  Once that was done, set my plane down and went to move the frame assembly from the bench to the floor.  I don’t know how, but this is where the day took a turn for the worse.


I’m not sure but that may be a tear drop on the vice chop.

I somehow managed  to knock my #4 plane to the floor, tote first.  You guessed it.  The tote broke into two pieces. So after the initial shock passed and the sick feeling in my stomach subsided, I set out to repair the damage. Luckily the break was clean. I simply added glue and clamped the tote to dry.

I moved on to cutting the tenons on the side rails. The side rails were cut to length earlier this week so it was just a matter of marking out the tenons and cutting the joints. As I was fitting the first tenon it caught on the lip of the mortise and split out a large, shallow piece of rail. It looked ugly but glued back in place nicely. I managed to cut and fit three additional tenons without incident. So I turned my attention to plowing the grooves in the two rails that I had just fitted.

The first three grooves went just fine. On the fourth groove I must have twisted the plane at the end of the stroke because I split off the outside corner of the groove. I glued that piece back in place and thru in the towel. Almost.


Not too bad of a repair and it should perform just fine.

I still had to finish the tote repair. A little file work, a little sanding and two coats of shellac. Good as used and ready to work. With that small success, I quickly locked the door to the shop and left before I destroyed anything else.

Greg Merritt

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HB Tansu #2-Progress 4


Rear Assembly. If you need to practice your plow skills, I can highly recommend this project.

An hour or so in the shop every evening this week had me ready for glue-up of the rear frame assembly.  I wish there was something of great interest about the work so far but I’ve got nothing.  The only thing of note is the several stopped grooves that have to be cut.  Two thirds of the 6mm wide grooves are done by hand with a chisel.  This was a wee bit tougher in the cherry than in the pine from last time.  I actually brought up a blister in the palm of my hand doing all these grooves.  It came damn close to feeling like work.  After the grooves I sized and sanded the panel.  Then cut several wedges in preparation for tonights glue-up.

So after work tonight I headed for the shop.  Loaded up Jerry Jeff Walker on my phone and set it shuffle.  I actually enjoyed this glue-up.  The hide glue performed as intended and gave me plenty of time to assemble all the parts.  I don’t use a mallet when assembling these frames except a few taps to verify the joints are seated.  Instead I use my clamps to slowly and steadily draw the joints together.  I find this method much easier.  Without all the banging, I can listen to the wood.  If there are any warning noises I hear them right away.  With the clamps in place, I drove all the wedges home.  Once the wedges are installed the assembly is effectively locked in place and I can remove the clamps.  Then I checked the assembly for square and verified that all of the bearers were square and seated.  All was as it should be.

So onward and upward.

Greg Merritt

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HB Tansu #2-Progress 3

hbt2-4I only managed to complete about 80% of what I had planned for.  I just couldn’t get a smooth flow in the shop this weekend.  Not sure why, but everything took longer than it should have.  The post tenons require a square mortise to receive the side rail tenons.  On the first HBT, the post were pine, I drilled out most of the waste with an auger bit and a brace.  The cherry wants to split too easily so the auger bit was out and I had to use a forstner bit.  Forstner bits work great in power drill but are slow going when used in a brace.  It does result in a very clean hole though.  Once most of the waste was drilled out, it was just a matter of squaring the holes with a chisel.

This version of the HB Tansu features an asymmetric drawer arrangement.  I worked out the joinery for the divider so that it can be marked out with the same marking gauge that I made for the other bearers.  It took a little tweaking to make it work, but I ended up with a workable arrangement.  I still need to congeal my notes and create a drawing that details the joinery.  Hopefully that will happen sometime this week.

I did the one thing that I always advise others not to do.  I got in a hurry!  In my haste to glue the front frame assembly I forgot to chop the mortises for the handle rails.  Not a deal breaker, but will require some bench gymnastics to chop them in the assembled frame.

So I did get the front frame glued-up and in the clamps.  I also managed to get hide glue up to my elbows and somehow in my beard.  Good thing hide glue will dissolve in hot water.  I had hoped to glue-up the rear frame as well.  I’m close, but came up short.  I still need to size, prep and fit the rear panel.  I’ll also need to do a final cleanup of all the parts.  Once those tasks are completed I’ll be ready to assemble the rear frame.

The weather is turning colder here.  We actually have frost advisories for the next few nights.  Since my shop isn’t heated, I’ll have to plan my glue-ups carefully and drag each freshly glued assembly into the house to cure.  That’s my normal winter procedure and is a pain in the butt.

This week I hope to glue-up the rear panel, fabricate the side and handle rails and fit all of the panels.  That list may be a bit ambitious but I’m going to give it a go.  If I pull it all off, I’ll be glueing the carcass up next weekend…maybe.

Greg Merritt

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HB Tansu #2-Progress 2

hbt2-3Still not feeling 100% after my cold but I’m getting there.  I managed to get a few hours in the shop on Sunday followed by an hour after work this evening.  I finished all of the mortises in the posts and chopped the mortises in the rails.   The post tenons were then fitted to the rail mortises.  This allowed me to do a dry fit of the front and rear frames.  I needed this dry fit so that I could obtain the final length for the front and rear bearers.

I started fitting the rear bearers first.  This joinery is repetitive, so once I get started it flows pretty quickly.  Using my purpose built marking gauge makes this even easier.  The joints that hold the rear bearers in place are a combination of mortise and tenon and saddle joint.  Fitting is straight forward.  Split the marking gauge line with the saw and chop out the waste.  All but one joint fit straight from the saw.  Not too bad, if I do say so myself.

Did I mention I like working with cherry?  I knew going in that only the outer frame was going to be made from cherry.  The bearers and drawers will be from pine and the panels will be birch ply like before.  I was a little concerned about how these different woods would look along side each other.  Now that I have the rear bears fitted, I can see that I’m going to like how it looks.  The cherry and the pine will compliment each other quite well.  The long term plan is to experiment with different species in the frame and stick with pine and birch as the secondary woods.

I’ve just barely gotten started but I’m starting to get back into the rhythm of the joinery.

One more thing.  I like working with cherry.  :)

Greg Merritt

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HB Tansu #2-Progress 1

hbt2-2I came down with a cold this week and my 10 hours per day at my day job was just about all that I could muster.  So with only a little shop time Monday and Friday evening all I have completed is the basic mortising and dados in the four posts.  This is the first time I’ve done any serious joinery in cherry.  I’m really liking it so far.  Cherry is denser than the pine that I usually work with.  Consequently it cuts much cleaner.  With pine I have to be careful when chopping to not crush the wood.  Even with very sharp tools, pine does not always cut cleanly.  The cherry is much more forgiving in this regard.  I can see working with cherry could become a habit with me.

There is a long way to go in this project however.  I have a new piece of joinery to work thru as well as some decorative elements that I hope to incorporate.  I’m still undecided as to the finish that I will be applying.  The tinted wax experiment on the first HB Tansu did not turn out as I had hoped.  The color came out flat and lifeless.  The finished surface and sheen is what I was after though.  I have always had good success with clear shellac and wax but, my gut tells me that shellac is not the finish to use on these tansu projects.  I’ve given up on the idea of trying to color wood to look like something it isn’t.  So I’ve limited myself to clear finish options only.  My other stipulation is that the finishing product needs to be nontoxic.  This shortens the list quite a bit.  It’s also why I usually use shellac or milk paint.

hb_tansu-001I’m doing a few test pieces using Tried & True original oil finish.  Tried & True is a blend of polymerized linseed oil and beeswax. It contains no petroleum product or heavy metal driers.  So this product ticks the box for nontoxic.   So far I’m happy with results, but the jury is still out.

I did manage to complete the layout drawing for this version of the HB Tansu so you can see where I’m headed.

Instruction Drawing:


Greg Merritt

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